There was a time, gentle reader, when LGBT representation on TV was restricted to offensive stereotypes: the campy sex-pest, the angry lesbian, the greedy bisexual etc.
Thankfully things have move on a bit and now there’s a wealth of well-rounded queer characters out there in TV land to love (and loathe).
So, I’ve selected some of the best ones appearing on TV screens over the past 2 decades.
Omar Little, The Wire
Without a doubt one of the stand-out characters in a stand-out show. Fierce and fearsome Omar (played by Michael K Williams) is a Robin Hood-esque stick-up man who relieves Baltimore’s drug dealers of their wares.
But Omar has morals; he may steal dealers’ money, but he doesn’t sell drugs, instead using them to bribe the city’s many crack addicts into providing him with safe-houses.
When the corner thugs hear Omar approaching, whistling his trademark tune ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’, they either hand over their drugs or sprint for cover. It’s clear to the audience before he appears on screen that Omar is not to be trifled with.
He is also openly, unapologetically gay. This irks his enemies no end (foremost amongst them gang honcho Avon Barksdale, who solely refers to him as “The Faggot”).
The torture and murder of his boyfriend Brandon at the hands of Avon is what motives him to exclusively target the Barksdale gang, and provides much of the drama during the show’s first series. Omar takes on the most powerful drug gang in West Baltimore, and effectively wins – all as revenge for his murdered lover.
The reason for Omar’s brilliance lies in the fact that he seems entirely comfortable with himself, despite constant abuse and widespread disdain because of his sexuality. But at no point does he seem conflicted or burdened by others’ opinions of him.
The contrast between Omar’s macho, masculine ‘career’ and his moralistic nature (he never swears, is kind to animals and never attacks those who aren’t in “the game” ) add layers to this multifaceted character.
Omar is the tender and the terrible in one scarred package, and possibly one of the best queer characters of all time. Even President Obama loves him, citing Omar as his favourite character on the show.